The packing line facility at the Mid-Columbia Agricultural Research and Extension Center was established to provide researchers a valuable tool in evaluating tree fruit experiments. The unit has the capability to perform the functions of a commercial packing facility on a research-sized scale. The facility is capable of handling samples, which range from a few fruit to bin-sized lots . The maximum capacity for sizing good-sized fruit is approximately three bins per hour.
The experimental-sized packing line offers all the features of a commercial packing operation. The system includes: 1) an immersion dumper which can utilize water or a number of flotation products. 2) An elevator with the ability to do both pre-sorting and pre-rinsing of the fruit. 3) A washer-rinser with brushes for removing dirt an/or wax. 4) A double immersion tank with intermediate washer . This allows the immersion application of two different materials (surface sterilizing solutions, chemical or bio-control agents, or defect indicating agents). The intermediate rinsing allows the use of non-compatible solutions. 5) A brush bed which can utilize foam rollers, or brushes (Pec, 50% horsehair, or 100% horsehair) to remove the residual water prior to waxing or to shine the natural wax. 6) A waxer or line-spray applicator . The unit can utilize either a spray type wigwag unit or spinning disc applicator to apply waxes or line sprays. 7) A drying tunnel offering either air, or heated-air drying. 8) A sorting table which allows for standard grade sorting , or the removal of specific defects . 9) A two-lane Greefa color-sizer . This unit utilizes color and infrared cameras and allows for the sorting of fruit on the basis of average color, percentage blush, average background color, size (weight, length, or diameter), or quality. The fruit can be automatically categorized into 45 groups by the computer based on the sorting criteria , and two grades sized concurrently. The actual measured values for color, blush and size can be reported on a fruit-by-fruit basis. 10) Two computer controlled fruit-drop packing stations allow the selection of specific fruit for further study, or the elimination of specific categories of fruit from the main stream. 11) A bin filler , which allows fruit to be returned to bulk containers for delivery to a commercial packing operation or destruction, if required. 12) An accompanying storage facility allows for the limited storage of research samples prior to or following packing line operations.
The facility has been utilized to evaluate: 1) Pruning, training, thinning, and management trials; 2) The infestation levels of different insect pests from IFP research plots; 3) The application of scald inhibiting chemicals, handling-induced fruit scuffing; and 4) The influence of growth-regulating compounds. In addition to the researchers at the Mid-Columbia Agricultural Research and Extension Center, University, USDA and private contract researchers and chemical company research and technical representatives in Oregon and Washington have utilized the facility.
Prospective researchers can utilize fruit from research plots in their home areas, or from local sources. Researchers at the Mid-Columbia Agricultural Research and Extension Center can assist outside researchers is setting up plots in the local area. Prospective researchers should contact: Brian Tuck, Superintendent, Mid-Columbia Agricultural Research and Extension Center, 3005 Experiment Station Drive, Hood River, Oregon 97031-9512. Email or phone 541-386-2030.